Action to Prove Benefits of Outdoor Activities

University of Cumbria

Research which aims to prove that outdoor education can help physical and mental health as well as improve numeracy and literacy has been launched following a collaboration by the University of Cumbria and the professional body for outdoor education, the Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL).

Local research hubs that bring together practitioners and researchers will be piloted in the north west, south west and in Scotland. Funding from IOL for the first year will establish the project which it’s hoped will be expanded.

“Research in the field of outdoor education has given some strong hints that the claims of professionals do indeed stand up,” Dr Chris Loynes, a reader in outdoor studies at the University of Cumbria, said. “However, most of these have been small studies or have been unpublished. What we need is to bring all the evidence together and plan new research to fill the gaps so that Outdoor Education can have confidence in what it does well.”

The project will support outdoor practitioners in conducting their own action research. The findings will then be aggregated nationally by the research team at the University of Cumbria so that the strength of the evidence can be widely communicated.

Outdoor Education is a major employer in Cumbria and the University of Cumbria degrees at the Ambleside campus are the market leaders for the field. A research assistant will be recruited to coordinate the project.

“The outdoor education profession is raising the standards of practice across a range of applications like teaching and therapy,” Andy Robinson, chief executive of Outdoor Education Institute for Outdoor Learning, said. “We want the quality of practice to be led by a strong evidence base and we want to work with practitioners to achieve this’.

The scheme has also received support from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

“‘It will be fantastic to have a stronger evidence base to argue for what we know to be effective ways of teaching and learning,” Elaine Skates, chief executive of the council said. “We need our children outdoors for their own good and the good of the planet.”

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